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Thursday, May 23, 2024
The Observer

Crow: Week 3 CFB takeaways

App State wins another thriller

App State has officially made a habit of playing in the most thrilling game of the week. They began their season by scoring 40 points in the fourth quarter against North Carolina, yet somehow still lost after
failing to convert a pair of two-point conversion tries in the game’s final minutes. Last week, they traveled to College Station and returned with the season’s biggest upset to date — a 17-14 win over No. 6 Texas A&M during which they shockingly held the Aggies to under 200 yards of total offense.

When it was announced that College Gameday would be coming to Boone on Saturday for the Mountaineers’ game against Troy, App State finally seemed in position for a well-deserved, stress-free win in front of a
raucous home crowd and national audience. Instead, they put their fans’ nerves to the test once again with the unlikeliest of finishes in the midst of a season that has been full of them. The teams went back and forth throughout, with the lead changing hands in each quarter. Troy led 21-14 at the half, but App State scored 10 unanswered points in the third quarter to take a three-point advantage that would stand until another Trojan touchdown with just over 10 minutes remaining.

With Troy leading by four and the clock ticking down, the Mountaineers went on a methodical 17-play drive
that lasted nearly nine minutes. App State had first and goal from the five-yard line, but the Troy defense stood tall, getting four straight stops to force a turnover on downs and regain the ball with just
over a minute left. After three run plays set up a fourth-and-two situation, Troy made the interesting situation to intentionally take a safety, giving App State possession at around midfield with just 15 seconds remaining.

Three incompletions from quarterback Chase Brice later and the Mountaineers were down to their final play. On fourth down, Brice escaped the pocket and threw a Hail Mary that was deflected before being caught by receiver Christian Horn at the seven-yard line. Horn scrambled around the edge of a swarm of Trojan defenders (aided by a crucial block from Mountaineers receiver Kaedin Robinson) and into the endzone, handing App State a 32-28 win. The Mountaineers will be back at home next week to face a strong James Madison team in a game that, if their current trend is to be trusted, should be the greatest college football game of all time.

Kansas is for real

On November 24, 2007, Kansas played their regular-season finale against Missouri. The Jayhawks, ranked No. 2 nationally and holding an 11-0 record, needed a win to clinch a spot in the Big 12 Championship, where another victory would put them into the national title game. It is interesting to think about what could have been: a national championship might have turned the Jayhawks into a football powerhouse, a team that could consistently compete for Big 12 supremacy with the likes of Oklahoma, Baylor and Oklahoma State and battle for playoff berths. Instead, Missouri won, and Kansas fell into an immediate tailspin that resulted in them becoming one of the worst programs in college football in the years since.

After a respectable 2008 season, Kansas entered 2022 having won more than three games in a year just once while posting a dismal 8-106 conference record over the last 13 years. That is why it is so surprising to see Kansas off to one of the hottest starts of any team in the country. Jayhawk head coach Lance Leipold was hired away from Buffalo before the 2021 season, and while the team finished 2-10 in his first year, there were early signs of a shift in the program, such as an overtime victory against Texas and a tight loss against then-No. 3 Oklahoma.

That momentum has carried into this season, where Kansas has ridden a high-powered offense to a 3-0 start. After a season-opening 56-10 win over Tennessee Tech — the type of game that recent Kansas teams would often narrowly escape from or even lose — the Jayhawks went on the road and defeated conference opponent West Virginia 55-42 in overtime. This week, they had their toughest test yet, traveling to face a Houston squad tabbed as a top-25 team during the preseason. They passed with flying colors, nearly scoring 50 points for the third straight game in a 48-30 win that was never really in doubt. Kansas quarterback Jalon Daniels has been a dual-threat star, compiling 10 total touchdowns and over 800 total yards through three games. The Jayhawks have coupled his play with a dynamic rushing attack, having run for over 250 yards per game and boasting four players that have already eclipsed the century mark in rushing yards. With tough but winnable games against Duke, Iowa State, and TCU next on the docket, Kansas has a legitimate chance to enter a huge game against No. 6 Oklahoma with a 6-0 record.

Regardless of whether they do, though, Kansas looks like a team likely to still be playing come bowl season for the first time in well over a decade.

Big wins in the Pacific Northwest

In the months since USC and UCLA announced their plans to make the jump to the Big 10 in 2024, much has been made about the future of the Pac-12 without two of their most high-profile programs. Special attention has been paid to Oregon and Washington, schools with historically successful football and all-around athletic programs, and whether they would follow their California brethren to the Big 10 or remain in a watered-down Pac-12. All of that is still up in the air (though recent reports indicate that the Big 10 is not currently interested in further expansion), but neither team let the chatter distract them as they picked up important victories this weekend. Oregon entered the season surrounded by excitement and optimism as a borderline top-10 team under new head coach Dan Lanning. That positivity disappeared very quickly after the Ducks were obliterated by Georgia in their season opener by a score of 49-3. With time comes perspective, though, and the loss has begun to look like less an indictment of Oregon and more the result that every team unfortunate enough to face an unstoppable Georgia team will suffer.

After a dismal Oregon debut following his transfer from Auburn, quarterback Bo Nix got back on track against Eastern Washington, throwing for five touchdowns in a 70-14 win. That vaulted Oregon back into the national rankings at No. 25 just in time for a big matchup with No. 12 BYU, a team that had just knocked off a highly ranked opponent in Baylor.

BYU was unable to match that feat, as they were thrashed by the Ducks on Saturday. Oregon took a 38-7 lead in the third quarter before coasting to a 41-20 victory behind another great showing from Nix and the offense. Many likely counted the Ducks out after week one, but they suddenly look the part of a team capable of contending for a Pac-12 title. The same can be said for Washington, who improved to 3-0 with a surprising 39-28 upset win over No.11 Michigan State.

Quarterback Michael Penix Jr., in his first year with the Huskies after three years as the starter for Indiana, has emerged as an early Heisman contender, and he showed why against the Spartans. Penix threw for 397 yards and four touchdowns, and a Washington team that did not receive much attention during the preseason is now ranked No. 18 and playing as well as anyone in the conference.

After the Pac-12 decided to eschew divisions this season in favor of sending the two teams with the best conference records to the championship game, a USC-Utah matchup looked like the most
probable outcome. While those could indeed be the teams squaring off for the title, it should come as no surprise if Oregon and Washington find themselves in the mix come the final weeks of the season.

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The views expressed in this sports authority are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.